Friday was another record-breaking day of new cases of COVID-19, and cases continued to mount over the weekend. The ICU at University of Utah is at 99% capacity. Hospitals are now planning to begin rationing of care, invoking the state’s Crisis Standards of Care. Clearly, our healthcare system is being overwhelmed by the pandemic, and flu season could stretch available resources even more. As hospitals begin to contemplate the difficult decisions ahead, we seek to remind State leaders and health care professionals that disability is not an allowable factor to consider when rationing care—even in those instances in which age is used as a tie breaker between two individuals whose conditions are equal.
In August, the DLC resolved a complaint against the state regarding these Standards of Care, which we alleged illegally excluded people with disabilities from accessing life-saving treatment such as ventilators, and deprioritized others based on their disabilities. In response to the complaint and engagement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights, Utah has revised its Crisis Standard of Care Guidelines to comply with federal disability rights laws and ensure that people with disabilities are not discriminated against even when public health emergencies, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, necessitate the rationing of scarce medical resources.
While we are relieved that the Standards of Care were updated to prevent illegal discrimination, we are concerned that they could become a reality in many of Utah’s hospitals. No one should be denied care based on their disability.
If you are denied care on this basis, you can file a complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights or contact our short term assistance team at (801) 363-1347 or disabilitylawcenter.org.
Community Integration Team
Disability Law Center